We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Buy Large Mansions

1909: “Socialism … It’s a grand scheme. You work for the equal distribution of property and you start by collaring all you can and sitting on it.” P.G.Wodehouse (comic author), ‘Mike and Psmith’.

2021: “I practice Marxism by getting rich and supporting my family.” Patrisse Khan-Cullors (BLM co-founder), TV Interview

Buy Large Mansions‘ was not something I expected to see added so soon to ‘Black Lives Murdered‘, ‘Bullshit Marxist Lies‘ and other clarifications of the acronym. It was obvious from the start that Chavez and his family would become stinking rich as Venezuelans starved, that Mugabe’s wealth would grow as his country’s vanished, but usually the socialists themselves say it openly only a good many years after seizing all power, not just a few months after stealing an election.

I think it was de Toqueville who said of nineteenth-century French revolutionaries: “I had the impression they were play-acting the French revolution much more than continuing it.” The same impression led Karl Marx, echoing Hegel, to write that history happens twice: “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” In that sense, Patrisse is indeed realising Marx’s vision.

She is also embodying P.G.Wodehouse’ joke. Foreseeable, avoidable tragedy is farcical. National Socialism conquered Germany, then Europe, before being pulled down by almost all the combined strength of the remainder of the world – and that was shameful, Hannah Arendt pointed out, because it was also ridiculous. The current state of the western world is less grave (as yet), but it is already shameful – because it is already ridiculous.

Samizdata quote of the day

I have believed, for some time now, that Lockdown will in due course be retro-damned as a cure worse than the disease, that at the very least went on for far too long. A generation of “experts”, all gripped by the fallacy of the risk free alternative, are going to be proved as having been very inexpert indeed. What is ending Covid is herd immunity. And what does Lockdown do? Lockdown slows down the arrival of herd immunity and prolongs the agony, in a feedback loop of yet more Lockdown. Will it ever end? I’ll believe the end of Lockdown when I see it and when the idea of re-imposing Lockdown is no longer talked about. Such are my prejudices just now.

Brian Micklethwait

Big Business has long known the way to eliminate or at least manage future rivals

Conspiracies are almost always bunk (but note that word ‘almost’). In the vast majority of cases, there are other better explanations for why things happen. Also, it ain’t a conspiracy if it is right out in the open for all to see. And by out in the open, I do not mean people saying “we are going to screw you over”. No, forget what people say, just focus on what they do and try to actually make happen. Once you understand what their objectives are, and the incentives they respond to, you can (almost) always parse their proclamations and get what they actually mean. An oil company’s objective is to produce oil, right? So, why would an oil company support phasing out internal combustion engines? Well, an oil company’s objective is not to produce oil, it is to make money and keep its employees in their jobs. And you can also make money by having governments give you taxpayer’s money to develop alternatives.

Big business seeks unified, market-based approaches ahead of climate summit

Corporate executives and investors say they want world leaders at next week’s climate summit to embrace a unified and market-based approach to slashing their carbon emissions. The request reflects the business world’s growing acceptance that the world needs to sharply reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as its fear that doing so too quickly could lead governments to set heavy-handed or fragmented rules that choke international trade and hurt profits.

– Reuters (2021)

Note that phrase “fragmented rules”. There is even a photo in the article of some poor impoverished fellow titled “A farmer burns paddy waste stubble in a field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India”. No doubt this man is filled with a frisson of excitement at the prospect of having his costs massively increased by getting rid of internal combustion engines, and maybe even having some patented GMO seeds foisted on him that he has to pay for annually.

So, here is another quote.

Fascism is the organised attempt to introduce socialist planning with the consent of big business

– Edward Conze (1934)

Conze’s quote is very illuminating and even from the perspective of a deeply unpleasant man writing in the 1930s it is on the money. Where I think Conze’s observation needs a bit of updating is fascism (or alt-socialism) circa 2021 does not look exactly like fascism circa 1934. The ‘organised’ bit these days lacks jackbooted chaps marching down the street (well, usually), and modern neo-racism is tactically different to the way it was done in 1934, albeit the primary objective is still segmentation of populations into manageable groups.

Admittedly, Chinese Han nationalism is a bit more like paleo-racism than the neo-racism of the 白左 Wokesters of the Western world, complete with jackbooted thugs marching down streets, but in most other respects, the Chinese Communist Party has provided a master-class in how an ineffective Marxist socialist regime can quickly adopt the more effective and pragmatic outsourced fascist approach to planned socialist societies. A lot of people in the west look at China and rather like what they see.

When big businesses argue for higher taxes and more regulation, it takes wilful blindness to not see why they are saying these things. It is because it gives them a comparative advantage over less well capitalised up and coming rivals who lack huge compliance departments. Moreover, it strangles future would-be rivals at birth, making it too expensive to even try and get a business based on little more than a good idea off the ground. Just make sure the regulations and costs apply to everyone, no “fragmented rules” that leave gaps in which dangerous weeds might grow.

It is not a conspiracy, because not only is this completely out in the open, it is just a confluence of interests between people with monetary and political power, bureaucrats public and private looking to maintain their power and prestige.

Covid – some don’t want this crisis to end

“It is said that politicians, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel.”

Sarah Napton, Daily Telegraph, writing about how the UK Government appears reluctant to accept that now that vaccines have been offered to all over-50-year-olds in the UK (a group covering 99 per cent of Covid deaths) that the threat has been massively reduced.

It gets harder by the day to resist the view that too many in government, and indeed among the public, rather enjoy the covid pandemic. It gives them the same buzz of imagining what it might have been like to live through a war, and an episode they look forward to boring their relations and descendants about for years to come. Call it also a form of pandemic Stockholm Syndrome.

Samizdata quote of the day

By punishing both the speaker and the person who remained silent, the dean of Georgetown’s law school sent a chilling message: if you are to participate in any discussion regarding grades and race, you must express the politically correct view of the matter. Silence is not an option.

But what the politically correct view actually is remains unclear. Must you say that African-American students in fact do as well in law school as their white counterparts? What if that is not, in fact, true? Can you say that African-American students don’t do as well, but that the cause for this disparity is racial prejudice? What if you don’t believe that? What is your obligation if a colleague expresses her honestly felt angst? Must you quickly interject your disagreement with her views? The message sent by Dean William Treanor is that it is best not to participate in any such conversation, and if a colleague’s comment catches you by surprise, you should walk away or turn off the Zoom call, thereby not expressing agreement or disagreement with the content.

In my view, neither professor said or did anything wrong. But even if they did, they had the academic freedom to express their heartfelt views or to remain silent in the face of a colleague expressing them.

Alan Dershowitz, referring to this incident. Dershowitz describes this as un-American, but sadly the very worst ideas spreading across the globe these days are largely American ones, being injected into other societies by large American companies and institutions that have wholly embraced them. Personally I would like to see a resurgence of older foundational American notions, but that is not the direction things are currently going.

Samizdata quote of the day

By running their ship aground in the Suez Canal, the owners of the Ever Given, Japanese firm Shoei Kisen KK, unilaterally realized the dream of Peter Navarro and other radical protectionists. For seven glorious days over $9 billion dollars worth of goods per day were stopped from flowing through the Suez Canal. Much of that was headed to the United States and would have added to the “trade deficit,” thus (allegedly) wrecking havoc on the United States. Many hundreds of ships loaded with hundreds of thousands of containers full of all kinds of exports are still backed up. The impact on supply chains will continue to be felt long after the forces of free trade got the ship back on its way. According to Lars Jensen, chief executive of Denmark-based SeaIntelligence Consulting, “The effect is not only going to be the simple, immediate one with cargo being delayed over the next few weeks, but will actually have repercussions several months down the line for the supply chain.”

The doctrine of the balance of trade has been around for centuries. It has also been refuted for centuries.

The protectionists should award the captain of the Ever Given a medal for – literally – blocking trade. Protectionists seek to block trade. And that’s what the Ever Given has done. (Free traders argue that protectionism isn’t a useful descriptive term, because blocking trade doesn’t protect a country, although it does protect special interests from competition.)

Of course, no serious person would propose an award to the captain of the Ever Given, but there’s really no economic difference between the bulk of a gigantic ship physically blocking trade and the armed police of the Customs and Border Patrol coercively blocking trade.

Tom Palmer

Courage in Comedy

Courage is not just a virtue; it is the form of every virtue under test. For a kindness or honesty which is only kind or honest while it is safe is not very virtuous. Pontius Pilate was merciful – till it became risky. (C.S. Lewis)

It’s not just virtue that needs courage. Jokes can need a little courage too. On one of Prince Philip’s visits to Australia, a virtue-signalling politico decided he would be asked the same questions as any immigrant.

Border Official: “Do you have a criminal record?”

Prince Philip: “I had no idea it was still a requirement.”

Witty remarks need wit – and timing (the worthlessness of ‘l’esprit d’escalier’ – that clever retort you think of whle descending the starcase after the party – has been proverbial for centuries). Humour cannot survive a too-timid inner censor (“Can I really say that? Dare I really say that?”) stealing the moment.

I’m not just talking about the overt courage some jokes need. That can be very real of course. Christabel Bielenberg fell in love with a German in 1932 and married him in 1934.

‘There can’t be many weddings in which the father of the bride stops the car on the road to the church and says to his daughter, “You can still call it off.”

In the very last days of WWII in Europe, she walked into the mayor’s office in the German community where she lived and noticed that the picture of Adolf Hitler was missing from the wall. Seeing her glance, the mayor explained he had put it in the fire the day before. Christabel thought of a joke about Adolf and his picture, automatically reminded herself not to say it out loud – and then realised with delight that for the first time in many years she could say it out loud, she no longer had to think first whether everyone present was ‘safe’. In the joke, Adolf muses to his picture, “I wonder what will happen to us after the war?” The picture replies, “I don’t wonder – I know: you’ll be hung and I’ll be unhung.” The mayor, like the vast majority of Germans, had never heard it – and till the day before would not have dared laugh at it. He spent the rest of the aftenoon suddenly guffawing and murmering, “hung – unhung”. Despite everything, the new freedom to laugh seems to have been a relief to him too. He – unlike Christabel but like too many Germans – had not had the courage to remain aware of his inner censor during the Nazi years; it had become part of him.

It’s not just the comedian who needs a little courage. The audience can also use a little of it. Prince Philip once joked to a British student in China that if he stayed there too long he might acquire ‘slitty eyes’. Thinking people (people not too scared to think) know that a joke does not mean what it literally says (and that Prince Philip did not imagine that the facial features of other nationalities could be caught through proximity, like a disease). Imagine that, back in 1937, visiting a family funeral in Germany, he had told a British student there to beware staying too long lest his head become squarer. The alleged ‘squareheads’ of native Germans in the first half of the 20th century betokened the too ordered, too obedient, too constrained thoughts within them, as the alleged ‘slitty eyes’ of native Chinese in the second half betokened the deceitful propaganda of the CCP. It should not be hard to get the joke’s point – unless of course, the very idea of thinking about an ethnic slur before condemning it is too terrifying to contemplate. “Do not trust China. China is asshole.” as a chinaman in Hong Kong more recently put it.

Orwell explained that putting the mind in a politically-correct box kills a writer’s creativity. Such cowardly conformity also hurts the sense of humour – the sense of humour.

The courage to joke also helps if your position tends to make others nervous:

“I realised afterwards that all his so-called ‘gaffes’ were quite the reverse. They were masterclasses in putting people at their ease. If he’d kept the royal drawbridge up and encouraged deference, all he would have had in his 73 years as the Queen’s husband would have been a series of terrified, tongue-tied people to talk to at a thousand events. For a serious, curious, clever man, that would have been agony. What he wanted was information, and perhaps a few laughs.” (The Truth about Prince Philip’s Gaffes)

And facing your death with courage will often mean facing it with humour. When the brilliant Oxford mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah (not so long before his own death) told Prince Philip how sorry he was to hear he was standing down from official duties in late 2017, Prince Philip replied:

‘Well, I can’t stand up much longer!’

The freedom to make a joke. The freedom to take a joke. Freedoms worth tending in the garden of your mind.

The predicted hyperinflation might already be here

Food for thought.

Who cares about what these old white men think in modern, progressive Scotland?

“Writing in Scottish Legal News today, Quis? – a group of senior retired lawyers who have held high office in Scotland – express concerns over the Crown Office’s behaviour during the Salmond inquiry and call for reform to prevent prosecutors from overstepping their role.”

I would imagine Scottish Legal News is usually rather a staid journal, of interest only to legal professionals and legal journalists. Give ’em the clicks, this is important.

For instance, this is a sinister development:

Contempt of court orders protecting the identity of witnesses and victims of crime were once a relatively unusual feature of our legal landscape. No more. At last count there were more than 400 such orders currently in force in Scotland alone.

and so is this:

When did Crown Office, our state prosecutors, become our state censors?

When did Crown Office get the power to tell anybody to keep their correspondence secret?

Some might reasonably ask if what has been going on has remarkable similarities to English ‘super injunctions’, where you can’t even publicise the fact that the injunction exists, and some might also reasonably ask if this is quite simply ‘bullying’ tactics in order to achieve the Crown Office objective of removal of material which Crown Office asserts is necessary for protecting identities.

That would be a perfectly legitimate objective – if it was right. It will be borne in mind, however, that in a recent high-profile prosecution for such a breach, 50 per cent of the material alleged by the Crown to amount to contempt was found by the court not to be a breach of the court order.

Kenyans challenge their allotted role

“Don’t give us $2bn loan, Kenyans tell IMF”, reports the Times.

A $2.34 billion bailout for Kenya from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has provoked anger among its citizens rather than relief.

Since the three-year package was disclosed, the IMF’s social media sites have been peppered with complaints under the hashtag #StopGivingKenyaLoans. A petition demanding that the loan be cancelled has gathered a quarter of a million signatures in a few days.

The east African state is already struggling to pay off debts that are expected to peak next year at 73 per cent of GDP. President Kenyatta has admitted that every day $18 million is lost from state coffers to corruption.

In a post on the IMF Facebook page, Mwihaki Mwangi said that the loan would do more harm than good. “Stop lending money to the Kenyan government,” he wrote. “It ends up in a few corrupt pockets. No change in living standards to the common citizens. We are becoming poorer and poorer. Heavy taxes levied on our meagre salaries. Reverse the loans.”

A fine speech by Joe Biden

Joe Biden, addressing the Senate of the United States:

“In the summer of ’37 Roosevelt had just come off a landslide victory over Alf Landon. He had a congress made up of solid New Dealers. But the nine old men of the court were thwarting his agenda. In this environment, Roosevelt – and remember this whole adage about “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” – corrupted by power in my view – unveiled his court-packing plan. He wanted to increase the number of justices to fifteen, allowing himself to nominate those additional judges. It took an act of courage on behalf of his own party institutionally to stand up against this power grab.”

Video: Biden: “Court packing is a power grab.” (2005)

The title of the YouTube video might have given the game away: that eloquent speech by Joe Biden took place in 2005. The Joe Biden of 2021 does not speak as well in any sense: “Biden Appoints Court-Packing Commission – Puts Conservative Supreme Court Justices In His Sights”. The link goes to an article by Mary Chastain of Legal Insurrection, via Sarah Hoyt of Instapundit.

Samizdata quote of the day

A REALLY large number of people have now staked their political and/or personal and professional reputations & credibility on this being A Really Bad Thing, one that requires Obedience & Sacrifice & wear that fuckin’ mask in a non clinical setting, mate! No overarching conspiracy is required to understand the collective insanity & wilful stupidity on display.

Bell Curve